Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Bringing Bluegrass to the Masses, Circle Media Thrives as Modern Music Television
By Stephen Pitalo
Television has long been a source for older generations to receive great music that speaks to their heritage, while also catering to younger music fans by introducing them to classic country music as well as modern takes on traditional bluegrass. That connectivity has brought bluegrass to the masses for decades, from the early days of television showcases through the era where Porter Waggoner, Johnny Cash, and the Mandrell Sisters all hosted their network programs.
Picking up the torch for that mission is Circle Media, which also serves as the best example of two great companies combining to serve one monumental vision.
Opry Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc., and Gray Television teamed up to create a premium linear television and OTT (over-the-top) streaming channel dedicated to celebrating country music and the country lifestyle, and bluegrass programming have become a thriving component of that combination, now known as Circle Media.
“The Opry and Gray TV saw an opportunity in the marketplace to ‘super-serve’ country music and country lifestyle fans,” explained Teresa George, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Circle.
Gray’s extensive distribution network in key markets all over the United States works in tandem with the tremendous library of current and heritage content that Ryman Hospitality has been acquiring and preserving for decades. This synergy of artist relationships, iconic venues, and music industry connections proved invaluable.
Circle Media and Circle TV currently serve the bluegrass music fans across the country by carrying The Dailey & Vincent Show and other programming with a bluegrass flair.
“We are proud to present programming that features prominent bluegrass artists, including Opry Live, Backstage at the Opry, as well as Ditty TV’s Americana Connection and Concert Series,” said George.
Bluegrass fans can access great music and performance content that includes Authentic America, Backstage at the Opry, Honky Tonk Ranch, Better Half, Craig’s World, My Opry Debut, Songs from the Cellar, The Southern Weekend, and Stand Up Nashville! Viewers can also watch episodes of the legendary series that brought country and bluegrass to television audiences across the country and around the world, Hee Haw!
Having seen the potential for highlighting country music artists and the passions, hobbies, and love of the music they share with their fans, Circle Media began providing programming for country fans and opportunities for artists like the media landscape has never experienced before.
“The future for Circle? To continue to create more quality programming and continue to increase our distribution so that more people have access to it,” said George of the more-than-100 affiliates (and growing) across the country that carry Circle Media. And as for the current COVID-19 pandemic, George also said that Circle Media is proud to continue entertainment safely during this time.
“We are doing a live Opry performance every Saturday night – even without audiences – during the COVID restrictions — to keep the almost 95-year tradition of the Opry going!”
During this current global pandemic, the Grand Ole Opry has worked closely with Nashville’s Director of Health to bring the show live to millions around the world while following strict safety protocols under the guidance of local health professionals. The Opry, with the help of its membership and wider artist and industry community, continues to bring millions of fans around the world together to keep the music playing without an Opry House audience in attendance. Embracing today’s technology, the Opry will be broadcast and streamed with a small production team for the time being. Under these conditions, Circle Media and the Grand Ole Opry aired its annual pre-
Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance Saturday, May 23, with Craig Morgan, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Kellie Pickler, with the Opry paying special tribute to the essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. Those tuning into the Livestream on the Circle All Access YouTube and Facebook channels also saw a special Memorial Day Weekend episode of “Circle Sessions with Craig Morgan,” who is an Opry member, TV host and Army Veteran who paid tribute to his past and his future with his new album, God, Family, Country, released May 22 on Broken Bow Records. After the Opry Livestream, Circle was proud to premiere a special edition of “Circle Sessions: At Home” with various stars.